On the Sunday following September 11, 2001, Reverend Kenneth Cragg worshipped as usual in his sanctuary, located directly across the street from a Muslim mosque. In a gracious act of good faith, the Islamic congregation invited the Christian congregation to join them after worship for an introduction to Islam. This event inspired Cragg to learn more about the true tenets of Islam. Was Islam really what the terrorists were saying it was, or were their beliefs terribly skewed by a deceptive human agenda? Cragg soon realized that Islam is not the enemy, terrorism is. In this study, Cragg carefully traces the history of Islam, clarifying the differences between true believers and radical terrorists. He encourages followers of Islam and Christianity alike to wage war on terror by acting as partners to build shared communities for a peaceful world. Cragg allows us to see Islam as one of the world’s great religions, not a front for terrorism.
In contrast to the European situation, Muslims entering the United States are usually from the professional, technical, and managerial classes of Muslim society. They immigrated with independent funds and chose to live among the population in general. Their children attend local schools and participate in community youth events. Until 9/11, the integration of Muslims in the United States was fairly uneventful. Immediately after 9/11, however, fear spread among the some six million Muslims who live in the United States. Although the Muslim community made wide disclaimers totally disavowing the radical philosophy of the terrorists, this fact was not widely publicized. The unlikely possibility of an al Qaeda operative in our midst furthered the perceived threat and affected our perceptions of the general Islamic population. As we seek to engage in local outreach, these issues should be familiar to us. Our role can only be a matter of supportive response to their distress, just as many of them have responded to our pain regarding the tragedy of 9/11. A new Muslim friend may insist that the actions of the terrorists on 9/11 were not representative of true Islam. More often, he or she will assume that we realize that to be true. We are then in a position to listen to their story and learn about Islam without defensiveness. This may open the way for us to share our own faith story. The key to the success of this model of friendly exchange is a version of the Golden Rule—share with others as you would want them to share with you. Carefully listen, gently respond, and let the Spirit of God guide the relationship into deep and committed friendship. In general, Muslims are as misinformed about Christianity as Christians are about Islam.
The Reverend Doctor Kenneth B. Cragg has served fifty years as a Presbyterian clergyman and college professor. He has degrees from the University of California at Berkeley, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Fuller Theological Seminary. Dr. Cragg is currently an Adjunct Professor of philosophy and Religion at Northampton Community College. He has four children, ten grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren, and twelve foster children. He and his wife, Willa, live in Kirkland Village, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.